Fellow CADS members, I am honored to be embarking on a unique leadership journey through this unprecedented time in our profession. If I have not had an opportunity to meet you yet, I look forward to meeting you at a future General Meeting or at a CADS event. In the meantime, I would love to share a little bit of background about myself. I graduated from the University of Texas (Hook ‘em Horns!) in 1998 and attended the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston. My husband is also a dentist and owns a private practice in Pflugerville. We have a 14 year old daughter and a 10 year old son who light up our life and keep us busy! I serve as the Chief Dental Officer for St. David’s Dental Program, the largest charity based mobile dental program in the nation. Our Dental Program provides dental care to underserved children and adults across Central Texas. I have always had a passion for public health since my time at UT when I was a Microbiology major. The first experience that ignited my passion in public health was serving as an intern at the Texas Department of Health in the Epidemiology Department. After graduating from dental school, I worked for a few years in private practice in Houston and had the best mentor who taught me the ins and out of practicing dentistry. We moved to Seattle, Washington for a brief time and I had the opportunity to work in various public health setting in city clinics, rural towns and in mobile units. I quickly realized that my path was in public health dentistry and serving the community.
As I thought about my upcoming Presidential term, it is apparent that COVID-19 has turned our world upside down personally and professionally and though this may be far from over, we have entered the recovery phase and are beginning to consider everything necessary to return to dentistry.
I am reminded of a great quote from an inspiring leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort and convenience
but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
We have all had to step out of our comfort zone so that we may protect and keep our staff, patients and community safe and healthy. We have all read countless numbers of articles, watched every webinar out there and skimmed through content on social media forums all in hopes of finding answers and creating the best plan for returning to dentistry. With all of this, one thought that stood out to me was how much organized dentistry is doing for our profession and how proud I am to be a member of organized dentistry. The ADA and TDA have worked tirelessly to create interim guidance and toolkits for its members. They also lobbied Congress on a third legislative package in response to the pandemic by asking lawmakers to include provisions on how to assist dental practices and other small businesses facing economic burdens. Communication and updates to members were frequent and in a timely manner via multiple platforms such as webinars, emails and social media. Talk about a member benefit!
Looking forward, I have never felt more appreciation for all the things that I use to take for granted such as a hug from a loved one, Friday night family dinners at our favorite restaurant or watching my kids play sports. As a family, we have learned a lot about each other while quarantining and enjoyed bonding and having uninterrupted time together. It really has been a blessing and a perfect time to catch up on self-care. On the flip side, we are all ready to get back to some level of normalcy even if that is in a phased approach! The kids cannot wait to hang out with their friends, and I am pumped about being back with my team and our Dental Program that is essential to the community.
I am also thrilled to serve as President of CADS this year! The CADS Board of Directors have done a phenomenal job at thinking innovatively about how we can serve our members while being cautious of COVID-19 guidelines and orders. My Presidential term will be all about YOU…our members. CADS is here for you in every way possible as you begin to recover during this difficult time.
Stay healthy, safe and well!
Shailee J. Gupta, DDS, MPH
CADS President 2020-2021